Well I finished McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy. I was please to read it and not feel angry or upset in anyway. That usually qualifies as a win in my book. There was some stuff that I didn’t fully agree with, and there were some things that I think we were really close on. All in all it was a good read and I would recommend it to people who like to think and be stretched a little.
This book is basically a story about how McLaren traveled through different traditions within Christianity and came to appreciate certain things and became concerned with others. Part of the reason that this orthodoxy is called Generous is because he tries to show how all these various traditions can compliment each other and that we as followers of Christ need to work to see that and not fight so much with people from traditions outside our own traditions.
I come from a Pentecostal tradition and McLaren went through a Pentecostal phase in his life. And I was actually surprised that he and I had a lot of the same concerns with typical Pentecostal thinking. One of the biggest things that Pentecostal theology creates is an insider/outsider mentality when it comes to spiritual gifts. If someone isn’t speaking in tongues then they are somehow less of a Christian. I know that is an extreme statement but it comes across from time to time. And this, I feel, alienates people who are on the “outside”. It can make them feel less important, less gifted, less usable by God, or just less. And I think that if the Pentecostal tradition is going to live and thrive in the future we will need to be willing to look at this inside/outside thinking and reevaluate what it is that we really want to say about speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts.
The other thing that he said about Charismatic Christians is that they, along with contemplatives, have a great understanding of joy. That really both paths lead to experiencing joy in profound ways. People don’t usually associate Charismatics with Contemplatives but ultimately these two paths should both lead to true and lasting and new joy.
Another really insightful thing that he said was in regards to the reformed tradition that the church should always be reforming. We should always be adapting to our culture. And this can be difficult to draw a definite line on because how far should we reform, what should we reform, those kinds of questions leave a lot of options and people can get confused and sometimes reform what should not change like the basic message of the Gospel, sexual boundaries, our state as sinful people before God. Those are all things, and there are probably many more, that should not be reformed. But we should be willing to reform our method, our vocabulary, our dress code, our music, all of that should be reformed with our culture so that we don’t come across as completely aloof and out of touch.
For instance, there are some things that are completely offensive to an older generation that if said in church would anger them, where as if that same statement were said in a younger context no one would even care. (I speak on this from experience). Who is right and who is wrong in that kind of situation? Both. But should both be willing to reform and try to communicate to the culture in the most practical and applicable way? Yes. So I guess it a give and take but it must always be moving gradually forward.
One of the things that was very clear in the book is that Christians should have compassion for lost people, but also for fellow Christians. I do agree with him that there are many things about our many traditions that we can embrace and celebrate. Because ultimately no one has it all figured out. We have been trying to for centuries and we still are not there. Some day we will be, but that’s gonna be in heaven, so in the mean time our orthodoxy can stand to be a little more Generous.